Recently, Australia has been in a continual state of flux due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One constant throughout these complex and uncertain times has been technology. The necessity of health practitioners, clients and workplaces to engage in digital and blended modes has never been greater. Universities and other training providers have adapted to the complexities of training health clinicians during this pandemic, to progress the studies of the health workforce of the future. The Deakin University Play Therapy teaching and research team has continued to facilitate the successful progression of students undertaking both clinical components and clinical placements utilising a combination of virtual simulations, telehealth and blended modes of service delivery. Play Therapy is a developmentally sensitive, evidence-based counselling or psychotherapeutic approach for supporting mental health and wellbeing in children, based on the premise that play is a child’s first language and that play is naturally therapeutic.
The Deakin University Play Therapy team is based at the Waterfront Campus in Geelong; however, they teach students digitally in the Cloud Campus and facilitate student placements Australia-wide, inclusive of regional, rural and remote locations. A shift from face-to-face clinical components to digital alternatives has further facilitated students to deliver mental health and wellbeing services to previously unserved locations across Australia.
To be eligible to undertake the Master of Child Play Therapy at Deakin University, prospective students must meet the pre-entry requirements which include a bachelor's degree or higher in a related discipline, or a bachelor's degree or higher in any discipline and two years’ relevant work experience. Related disciplines include psychology, teaching, early years teaching, occupational therapy, social work, nursing, counselling and many more. Master of Child Play Therapy students experience clinical supervision, peer-learning opportunities, interprofessional collaborations within their host placement organisations, and targeted clinical practice experiences aimed at developing and achieving the clinical competencies and practice standards as set out by the Australasia Pacific Play Therapy Association (APPTA). Graduates from the Master of Child Play Therapy may go on to work in a range of healthcare settings across Australia, working face-to-face or using digital means to provide therapeutic play services to children, families and organisations.
The Deakin University Play Therapy courses consist of three options for students who have an interest in pursuing specialised paediatric play studies. The Graduate Certificate of Therapeutic Child Play includes clinical components such as child, family and play observations, offered in digital formats or through simulated tasks. The Graduate Diploma of Therapeutic Child Play includes a clinical placement unit. The Master of Child Play Therapy includes several clinical placement units in which students are supported to offer telehealth options when appropriate (including teleparent support, teleplay, teleplay therapy and telefilial therapy).
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on student placements in the health sector across Australia. The Deakin University Play Therapy team have digitally adapted student placements in a responsive and creative way to ensure student course progression and continued access to mental health services for children and families across Australia. Persistence in supporting placements through digital and blended modes has supported students to serve regional, rural and remote locations during this time of increased mental health and wellbeing need. Healthcare training programs that include student placements may continue to benefit from the digital adaptations which were required for continuous service delivery in 2020 and 2021. Play Therapy student placements will undoubtedly continue to benefit from the innovation that has been required by students, clinical educators and placement settings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.